Pilgrim’s Call Committee is Forming: Understanding the Call Process

“This was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.”

I have heard comments like that many times from those who have served on call committees. Guided by the Holy Spirit, call committees quickly form into a team dedicated to doing their best work for a church they love.


Here’s information to help you understand the call process about to take place at Pilgrim to call the next lead pastor. These comments describe the process, but there is nuance associated with the process that would take much more space than a blog allows. Plan to attend the forum with leaders of Pilgrim’s Vestry on Sunday, September 19 after worship to find out more.


Call Committee Preparation

Once the Call Committee is formed, they will receive information from leaders at Pilgrim. This information will include a review of the CAT survey results, the final report of the Focus Group team, and the Ministry Site Profile of Pilgrim Lutheran Church. After that information is shared, leaders from the Saint Paul Area Synod will step in. Synod leaders will review the call process in detail with the Committee and provide guidance on preparing to interview candidates.


Pastor Jen Rome is a Candidate

In the September newsletter, the Vestry and I shared that, after a time of prayer, discernment, and conversation with Vestry and Synod leaders, Pastor Jen asked to be a candidate in Pilgrim’s call process. Once she informed the Synod and the Vestry of her desire to be a candidate, her candidacy was passed on to the prospective Call Committee.


The Process with an Internal Candidate

Any rostered ordained leader in the ELCA can request to be a candidate to fill a pastoral vacancy at an ELCA church, and Synod staff are obligated to honor that request. As the Call Committee begins the interview phase of their work, they must first interview Pastor Jen. They must interview her first, because she is an internal candidate.


In their interview with Pastor Jen, the Call Committee has a special obligation to consider the needs of the whole Pilgrim community. They are obligated, to the degree possible, to put aside their affiliations with Pastor Jen and, again to the degree possible, to treat her as they would an external candidate. That obligation means that they could say “yes” to recommending Pastor Jen to serve as lead pastor, but it also means that they could say “no.” The Pilgrim community is called to trust the Spirit and accept the recommendation of the Call Committee and to support them in their work.


Pastor Jen is obligated to trust the work of the Spirit, too, and to accept the outcome of the interview process. She is also obligated to continue her own discernment about whether she is called to serve Pilgrim as lead pastor at this time. As the conversation goes forward, she may find that God is calling her to serve at Pilgrim, or that God is not calling her to serve at Pilgrim, but instead has important work for her to do elsewhere with her particular gifts for ministry. Again, the Pilgrim community is called to trust the Spirit and support what is best for the church and for Pastor Jen.


The Process with External Candidates

If Pastor Jen is not the recommended candidate, the Call Committee would move forward with external candidates. The Synod may choose to submit a group of several candidates for consideration by the Call Committee or they may choose to submit one candidate at a time. The candidates may be pastors who have expressed interest in serving at Pilgrim, pastors whom members of Pilgrim recommend for consideration, or pastors who Synod staff believe are well suited to serve Pilgrim. After Synod staff have had their initial meeting with the Call Committee and before candidates are submitted to the Committee, Pilgrims will have the opportunity to recommend to Synod staff for consideration pastors with whom they are acquainted.


The world of church is small and Call Committee members may or may not have a connection to a given candidate submitted by the Synod. In every case, Call Committee members would be obligated to regard external candidates in the same way they would have regarded Pastor Jen – with the needs of the whole Pilgrim community in mind.


Serving on the Call Committee

Serving on Pilgrim’s Call Committee will be challenging and rewarding, but my sense is that Pilgrims are people who welcome challenges. Perhaps you’d like to serve on the committee. At the time this blog is being published, there is still time to apply to serve on the committee (the deadline is September 14). You can do so by clicking on this link or by obtaining a paper application from the narthex at church. As always, I am available to hear your comments and respond to your questions – pastorchrissmith@pilgrimstpaul.org.


See you in worship,

Pastor Chris Smith